The Federal Communications Commissioners voted (3-2) to include broadband internet as a subsidized Lifeline service for low-income consumers. Its an incredible policy that will create one very important tool to reducing digital disparity. What is also incredible is that the FCC’s order includes the creation of a digital inclusion plan. The FCC understands that cost is only one barrier. The other greatest barrier is digital literacy. The FCC has been clear all throughout the Lifeline proceedings that they do not have the resources to tackle the digital literacy barrier. The inclusion of the creation of a digital inclusion plan in the Lifeline order means the FCC heard what we were saying and recognizes the FCC can play an important role bringing attention and resources to the issue of expanded technology access and use.
In 2010 The FCC released the National Broadband Plan. That plan is quoted often, has been a spring board for issues defined in the plan, and the individuals who worked on the plan are people who are today supporters of digital equity, and specifically of NDIA. Thus, I have high expectations of what an FCC Digital Inclusion Plan could do. Not only can the plan have tremendous reach, the creation of the plan will pull together visionaries and practical thinkers, those with experience and those with resources. I cannot understate how important the creation this Digital Inclusion Plan could be.
We knew NDIA would be involved in implementation of the Lifeline order because we want to ensure the process for applying and the actual broadband service are useful to our most vulnerable neighbors. We knew NDIA would be involved in the outreach to make sure on-the-ground digital equity programs fully understand the revamped Lifeline program. We did not know the FCC would be creating a Digital Inclusion Plan. Thankfully we had already invited the right staff person from the FCC to participate in Net Inclusion 2016: The National Digital Inclusion Summit. I suspect there will be robust conversation on the topic of what the Digital Inclusion Plan could include.
Might we say to the commissioners and staff at the FCC — Thank you.